Worried about Holiday Weight Gain?

Monday, December 04, 2017 4:31PM

It’s that time of year again! Food is everywhere, and it’s difficult sometimes to make the right choices. The holidays are times to celebrate with family and friends. But for many it becomes a time of overeating, stress and weight gain.

Because the holidays can be so overwhelming for people, I like to try to keep advice on holiday eating simple.

5 Tips for Better Holiday Eating

1. Eat a good breakfast every day containing at least 15 grams of protein. This sets the tone for the day and helps with cravings. There has been a lot of research on this. In a recent University of Missouri study published in Nutrition Journal, it was shown that brain scans of high-protein breakfast eaters showed reduced activity in areas of the brain associated with cravings.

We often find ourselves rushing to get out the door in the morning without taking the time to eat a solid breakfast. As a result, we experience mid-morning cravings for sugary foods like donuts, pastries or even a bagel. And then the day can go sideways from there.

Great protein breakfast ideas include protein smoothies, plain Greek yogurt with nuts and fruit, eggs and veggies, and leftovers from dinner the night before. Another great idea is Breakfast Egg Cups because they are so easy to freeze and just shake out of the bag. By the time you get to work these delicious packages of nutrients are thawed and ready for you to enjoy. Check out the recipe in the recipe section of my website: www.SmartNutritionLLC.com

2. Get out in nature for some exercise. I know this sounds crazy considering your to-do list, which is longer than your arm. But the benefits of moving your body and the calming effect of nature are profound providing a double whammy of goodness. I know you will likely agree that lots of holiday eating is the result of stress. Stress causes you to crave sweets and then eating them creates even more stress to your physiology. It’s a vicious cycle so nip this right in the bud. Even just a 15-minute walk on your lunch break will help. Get out in the sunshine, take some deep breaths and enjoy the beauty of nature. We have lots of it here in the Monadnock region.

Have a plan. Walking in to a holiday party unprepared is a big mistake. Or shopping all day without a break and a decent lunch. Both situations set you up to be ravenous in the presence of many foods that can wreak havoc on your plan to eat healthier. If you have the right intention it puts you in the driver’s seat. Just pause to think of the day ahead and create a plan where you can access whole foods that contain protein, healthy fat and fiber.

4. Eat what you love and let go of the rest. Food cues are everywhere during the holidays. It’s easy to get sucked in to eating something that really isn’t all that great tasting such as store bought baked goods, candy that isn’t delicious or fast food, in general. Be discriminating. If the decorated sugar cookies just don’t do it for you, why waste your calories? Or if you don’t love fruitcake, why are you eating it? But if grandma’s dark chocolate chip cookies are on your love list, go for it. Just make sure you do it mindfully.

5. Mindfulness refers to being aware and in the present moment. Most of us have about 10 other things on our minds. We are preoccupied about what happened yesterday and worried about what is going to happen tomorrow. And stressed about what might happen next week. It’s no wonder that about 95% of the eating we do is mindless. You may decide to have one of those delicious cookies but then you never focus on it. What is the pleasure in that?

Try this instead. Sit down. No really, sit down, relax and savor the cookie. Enjoying the smell, taste, and texture of each bite will naturally help you slow down and stop when you’re full.

You can make it through the holidays without gaining weight. Manage your appetite by eating foods that nourish you and pack lots of fiber, protein and healthy fats. And don’t set yourself up to deprive yourself of certain foods that are important to you. Just make sure to move your body, have a plan and be conscious. Happy Holidays!

Ruth Clark is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with a master’s in Public Health and over 35 years of experience. She lives in Sharon with an office in Peterborough and sees clients in Keene (Jeni’s Skin Care). Ruth specializes in mid-life women who are struggling with weight, mood and fatigue to regain their energy and vitality. You can reach her at RuthRD@SmartNutritionLLC.com.